Thursday, January 26, 2012

Alliance and corp survival

I’ll admit, I am getting slightly addicted to Evemaps these days; it's the site with the most accurate information on what’s going on in New Eden in terms of sovereignty, alliances, corps and such. The ebb and flow of the never ending New Eden wars are reflected on evemaps: alliances losing sov and bleeding members while others surge. When an alliance or corp is struggling, evemaps is the place where this becomes mercilessly visible.

Having been part of a failscading powerbloc once, I’m always kind of interested to learn what happens to the corps who leave an alliance. Where do they go? Evemaps, ever helpfully, provides this information in the list of former corps for an alliance: if the departed corps have joined a new alliance, it is visible there.

Surprisingly, if you take a look at that list, many corps never join a new alliance after leaving one. Whether they left their previous alliance on their own accord of were forced out I don’t know; whether that alliance failscaded or just somehow faded (as happens to highsec carebear alliances sometimes) I don’t know either. But the fact remains, that hundreds, if not thousands, of corps (and their pilots!) once were part of an alliance but are now alone.

Take another look at a list of former corps (for instance that of LEGIO) and sort it by member. A new pattern emerges: the largest corps who’ve left LEGIO in the past, have found a new home in another alliance. Many corps who haven’t, currently have single digit membership numbers. And at the bottom, there’s a set of corps who haven’t survived; they are dead. I have checked this for several other alliances, and it’s not always a given, but as a rule of thumb, the bigger corps are more likely to be part of a new alliance when compared with the smaller ones.

I can think of several reasons for this pattern. A corp may lose members when it fails to provide it’s members with access to nullsec, wh space or other lucrative resources or fun activities, for a prolonged period of time; in the end, only a few inactive pilots and a handfull of die hards will remain. Or, when you are already a small corp, it may be more difficult to be accepted into a new alliance, as your size makes it less likely that you’ll provide added value to a new host alliance.

For any pilot involved in corp leadership, there are useful lessons to be learned here. Whenever you find your corp without an alliance, make it a priority to find a new, suitable one as soon as possible (without compromising on the ‘suitable’ part of course). And second: make sure you have enough good, active pilots, in order to provide added value to your (prospective) alliance.

For a regular corp member, there's something to learn as well. If your corp is no longer part of an alliance, and leadership isn't doing their utter best to correct that situation, the long term viability of your corp may be in danger. It would be wise to keep an eye out for alternatives.

Finally, I have - a while ago - checked up on several corps we were once in an alliance with. Most of seem to suffer from a low level of activity, even when they still hold a reasonable membership number. Eve is still a game, and when that game becomes less fun because the alliance or corp isn't functioning well, people will login less too; after a while they will probably unsub. Many of these corps are in a slow decline towards death, taking an unknown number of subscriptions with them.
In this regard, CCP is more or less dependent on the player corps and alliances (overwhelmingly run by well meaning amateurs, I might add) to keep the pilots engaged and active, and hence, CCP's business afloat. What a scary thought..

(2012-01-27 made some small editorial changes; content didn't change - Sered)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blog Banter 32 - for the children

"This month's Blog Banter comes from Drackarn of Sand, Cider and Spaceships. He has foolishly chosen to poke the hornet's nest that is the non-consensual PvP debate. Whilst you read his question, I'll be finding a safe place to hide.

A quick view of the Eve Online forums can always find someone complaining about being suicide ganked, whining about some scam they fell for or other such tears. With the Goons' Ice Interdiction claiming a vast amount of mining ships, there were calls for an "opt out of PvP" option.
Should this happen? Should people be able to opt-out of PvP in Eve Online. Should CONCORD prevent crime rather than just handing out justice after the event? Or do the hi-sec population already have too much protection from the scum and villainy that inhabits the game?"

*update* a list of other blog responses to the queston raised above, can be found at Freebooted.

Raise the price of nonconsensual PVP

After the Goons’ ice interdiction and their recent promise of a much more devastating ‘victory lap’ through highsec, we are again confronted with the question: should CCP do something about nonconsensual PVP? Should it be possible in New Eden to opt out of PVP altogether?

Eve Online has a reputation of being notoriously difficult. One of the hardest parts to understand - for inexperienced pilots anyway - are the aggression mechanics. This allows older, more experienced pilots to can flip or can bait newbie pilots - or they can resort to just suicide ganking them; that doesn't mean much to the older, more experienced pilot. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I find very little to defend in this practice. It is no sport, it doesn’t require intelligence or courage, it isn’t ‘educating the n00bs’. In my opinion, it’s just griefing, nothing more. There’s no reasonable way a  n00b miner can defend himself against these practices; it’s either accept that you’re being robbed, or lose your ship. 
I know for a fact that these practices have cost CCP subscribers. I have personally known several pilots who ended their fresh subscriptions (or never converted trial to paying subscription) after losing ships this way or hearing about such losses. Heck, if I hadn’t been accepted in a good newbie corp, I would have quit too, after losing my first, hard earned, shiny new Incursus to a griefer.

Yet the whole premise of New Eden is, that there is no safety, ever. It is a harsh, cold place and that is by design; it’s not by accident. It remains a single shard sandbox, fraught with danger. CONCORD was not meant to prevent crime there; not easily anyway. Let's not dumb down Eve Online even further, shall we?

Compromise: raise the stakes
Coming from a carebear background, I have a lot of sympathy for my less experienced brethren in highsec. Implementing some extra protection for them does appeal to my sense of fairness - and it would be good for CCP’s baseline as well. Yet I wouldn’t want to fundamentally change New Eden to accomplish it. But I can think of a few measures that would at least level the playing field somewhat.

For instance some extra protection, in the first 12 weeks (or 8, or 10.. please debate) of being a pod pilot. Let's determine a 'graduation age': below that, you're afforded some extra protection, if you're older than that, nothing changes when compared to the situation now. 
After the graduation period ends, the n00b pilot receives a note stating he has completed his basic training and should now be aware of all the dangers out there. The note contains a link to a evelopedia page on piracy, such as this one. No extra protection is now available for the graduated pilot.

So what kind of extra protection am I thinking about? Suicide ganking n00bs is now a very one sided event, as I mentioned above, and I propose to level the playing field somewhat, by making sure the griefer/ganker gets to feel the pain too. The ganker should have to think about his action: is this kill really worth it, or not?  The first step in this direction was removing insurance payout; let's take this line of thought a little further. I propose raising the security status penalties for ship killings under specific circumstances: when the pilot is below the graduation age, and the security status of the system is higher than 0.6 (or 0.5, 0.7.. up for debate), the security standings penalty is significantly raised. Penalties would be stackable: killing a mining vessel in 1.0, piloted by a pilot fresh out of trial, should carry a much more severe penalty than, for instance, killing an eight week old ratter in 0.8. Killing a two week old cyno alt in lowsec or nullsec should not carry (extra) penalties at all.

Added to this - and perhaps this should be implemented for all kinds of highsec ganks, not only for n00b bashing - the offending pilot should feel some real pain: a fine, and doing some jail time seems appropriate. So, no jumping/undocking for at least 24 hours after a suicide gank; ISK fines to you or your corp's wallet. 
I'd like to see some ISK compensation for the victim too, preferrably via the insurance route, but am struggling to find a way that would allow something like that to be implemented without being exploited immediately. Suggestions are welcome..
To prevent gankers from working with throwaway characters: the griefing/ganking character is 'on probation' and can't be biomassed or sold for at least two (four?) weeks. 

To prevent can flipping/baiting, I would simply suggest the ability to set a password on any jettisoned can. Anyone still can baited after that is just lazy and deserves some punishment :)

Pro and con
The upside of this (or a similar) approach would be, that nonconsensual PVP would still be available - but at a much steeper price to the ganker; this would be something you can't do too often before a character (or an account) becomes totally useless.The gank should really be worth it!

A downside is, that it's quite a convoluted system, a tad difficult to understand and implement without making it exploitable somehow. I'm sure, however, that the experienced game devs at CCP have ways around that. 

Another downside; certain high sec areas would - at least for younger pilots -become temporary save havens. They’ll probably flock around the few meager belts available there, without venturing outside too much. Will the youngsters muster the courage to exit the reservation? 

My final concern with any protection measure is: how will the griefers/gankers exploit it to their profit? This is something that needs to be thought of. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The written word

Earlier this week I published a review of Roc Wieler’s YC113. In the introduction I mentioned that art and creativity wasn’t really a part of the Eve community, except for video. 

I was primarily referring to, of course, the award winning machinima series ‘Clear Skies’. But, there are more well known Eve videos such as the ‘Clarion call’ series by Rooks and Kings alliance  (and the parody Noirion Call) and countless frapsed battle reports on Youtube. Recently, CCP hosted a contest for this kind of content on , allowing pod pilots to show off their video editing powers.
It takes some imagination and creativity to make these, but wouldn’t go as far as to call them ‘art’. It’s like the difference between a Discovery Channel documentary and a motion picture: both can be well made and entertaining, but in my humble opinion the first one remains a documentary, while the second one can sometimes be called art.

Screenshots of Eve Online are often beautiful, and nicely show how impressive New Eden looks these days. I have often done my best to create a specific snapshot, for instance by positioning all elements in a certain way; I have certainly done some post processing too, cropping, adapting contrast and light/dark levels. Is it creative? Sure. Art? Possibly.

But, I have to confess, I haven’t done justice to the Eve Online community. I have neglected to mention written fan fiction! Kirith Kodachi for instance is well known for his ‘fiction Friday’ series. Several bloggers are using a 'role play' style of writing on their blogs. Eve Travel is a good example; it's a travel guide to landmarks in New Eden. And for a fan fiction/RP styled source of news, you can head over to

There are actually quite a few role players in New Eden, who have fully immersed their in game persona in the background story CCP created. Alliances such as CVA and Ushkra’khan, while perhaps not always 100% ‘in character’ are also RP oriented. Pilots participating in factional warfare – war between the human races in New Eden – are also likely to be interested in or actively enaged in role playing. And let's not forget those real life model citizens who, in Eve Online, pose as fearful space pirates.. Many of these pilots maintain their RP persona on their blogs and twitter feeds.

It is in the written word that the Eve Online community displays a lot of it’s creative powers. I hope that, by pointing this out, I’ve made up for the fact that I have forgotten to mention it in the previous blog post..

Thursday, January 12, 2012

YC113: a review

The community is always an important part of a gaming experience. Back when I was (more) active in Second Life, I'd admire the creative works of my fellow avatars, and to this day, really beautiful things are created in the Linden Lab world. Second Life's community is a very creative one!

In Eve Online, there's no such thing as an artist or creator. New Eden knows industry - you can create predetermined things based on fixed blueprints -  but no in world, free format creation of objects. The community discusses game mechanics, killmails, fittings, shiptypes, CCP shenanigans, nerfs and buffs.. but only rarely does art or creativity come into play, with the exception of video. Eve Online may be a sandbox where you can choose your own career, but 'artist' is not high on the list.

That's why was pleasantly surprised to see an Eve Online related work of creativity: Roc Wieler's musical effort YC113, which was released October 1, 2011. After listening to it a few times, I have to say It’s an appealing work of art and well worth a listen to. Musically, I’d characterize it as orchestral, with much drama,  power and bombast: some parts could easily have been part of a soundrack to a grand battle scene in a Lord of the Rings movie. But there’s more than just these grand musical landscapes and vistas; there’s also the intimacy of a lonely piano, a deep sense of sorrow in a single woman’s voice. 

If you’re familiar with New Eden, you will find that all these musical elements fit that sandbox universe in which Eve Online takes place.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Why I play Eve Online (again)

There are many reasons why I continue to play Eve Online: excitement, the whole 'single shard sandbox' thing, friendships forged over the years. Plus, of course, the beautiful scenery..

I encountered this planet when I was creating a safe spot somewhere, all alone in a nullsec system in the Catch region. The new nebula, the gas giant with the rather detailed moon in front of it - I love it. Beautiful work.

In December I somehow didn't feel like playing nullsec eve, and I remained pretty much away for a while. Still, these moods usually pass within a few weeks; this time is no different, and I logged quite a bit of space hours over the past two or three days. Back in the saddle.. feels good. And looks good, to boot!

I started reading The Empyrean Age a few days ago, and am planning to do a writeup on it when I'm finished.